12 November 2021

People often skip important steps at the beginning of a task because they want to save time. The hope is it won’t make a difference to the outcome. I’ve never understood this approach, experience tells us that this very rarely works out positively.

Dan Townsend, Principal Planning Manager

My approach to Time dictates my personal as well as my professional life. I describe myself as positively lazy. Probably not something you want to announce in a blog. But I don’t want to spend disproportionate amounts of time fixing loose ends that have been created by skimping at the start. I also don’t think repeating small tasks, which could be fully automated, is a good use of anyone’s time. My preference is to do one job, do it right and in the smartest way, and move on.

I know from experience that our clients prefer us to work this way as well.

Collins’ focus on getting the programme right plays to my strengths as a planner. I develop high-level and detailed programmes and, combined with my ‘right first time’ approach, support the business on and off site. Getting time management and programme right is not just about practical steps that people need to take but a change in mindset as well.

The issue people have with time and time management is one of balance; spend too little and you get low quality results, spend too much and a task becomes inefficient and loses its value. It is my role to help everyone in Collins get this balance right and achieve high quality output delivered in the most efficient time.

I have worked with many construction companies and they all face similar challenges with time and programme; silo working between the disciplines, too much focus on the big picture, a lack of challenge from others when they see minor issues occur. This is due to the scale and pace of construction projects. I don’t believe there is another industry that has so many moving parts and so much to organise, than construction.

Under pressure, people will focus on what is in front of them but acting in silo will derail a project. I have known many a PM who wishes they had placed a procurement check-up call a week before a delivery. Those five minutes that seemed impossible to organise could have prevented a weekend of urgent work sourcing new and critical components.

Similarly, big picture success will only be achieved by the recording and fine tuning of every tiny detail relevant to a project and programme. Planning the minutiae takes a significant amount of time at the front end of a project but this is the principle that drives me and which we work towards as a business.

We use a layering approach to manage the data created around a project to enable a range of users to access different areas of information. We have a high-level layer and an atomic layer and these data layers incorporate every aspect of the project. This can be Clients’ funders using completion of milestone tasks to release more funds, or at a site level using data to communicate to those on the ground when parts need to be installed.

Having the right plan in place that is monitored regularly can help avoid the darker side of construction when things go wrong. The raw data is out in the open, is being discussed and mitigation comes more naturally to all parties when they know the knowns. Creating a level of transparency by sharing these plans across project teams helps everyone work to the same goal with an understanding of each others’ timeframes and deadlines and the bearing they have on each other.

We are using technology to examine the accumulative effects if certain tasks are not carried; data reveals what gets lefts behind and what creates issues, and we’re recording the impact on overall progress of our projects. Continued re-evaluation is making us smarter in our decision making and more accurate in our future-planning. Our sub-contractors are part of this process and this collaborative planning delivers benefits in increased communication, transparency and the of hitting regular targets.

Data and technology provides the evidence we need to make changes. But this has to be underpinned by a collective desire to change our perception and approach to Time. I know it’s a cliché but A stitch in Time…

Dan Townsend is Collins Construction’s Principal Planning Manager and works across all projects including  Chancery House, 3 St Helen's Place and The Helix.

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